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Aldborough to Blicking Hall and return

About 12 miles
Saturday 27th March 2010 (Blicking Hall visited Sunday 14th March 2010)
The weather forecast for 27th March was not promising, and we didn't start walking until 12.50pm, so I hadn't expected to manage a long walk. However it turned into a delightful spring afternoon and we had a lovely walk across undulating farmland, enjoying the spring flowers and trees in bud as well as rather less common wildlife: a fox and an owl. We managed to get as far as Blickling because I'd made a mistake in my calculation of the time at which we should turn around in order to get home at a 'reasonable time', so we didn't start our return leg until 3.30pm. However we were back at Aldborough by 5.30pm and home by 7pm. 
We parked by the village sign in Aldborough and had our lunch in the car. There were a few drops of rain as we retraced our steps of a few weeks ago, across the common, past the old mill and up Middle Hill. However there was no more rain for the rest of the day. We turned right onto a footpath and climbed to the round-towered church, clearly visible on the brow of the hill. The Church here is lovely - but it isn't Aldborough Church. This is the Church of St Mary, Thwaite (there appears to be a hamlet called Thwaite hereabouts), with its origins in the 12th Century and later additions (including a 19th Century Chapel). The location of churches away from centres of population, observed on previous legs of this walk, continues to quite an extreme extent here. This fact is commented on in the useful 'Norfolk Churches' website and I would also agree with Simon Knott's description of the interior of Thwaite Church: 'The inside is entirely rustic, a real church of the common people'.
The path took us down the side of the Church and downhill again, crossing fields including - yet again - a freshly ploughed one (though not quite so freshly ploughed as some of the fields we have crossed recently - other people had already crossed the field here so the route was clear and the walking was not too difficult). We emerged onto a narrow lane and turned right, then took a path diagonally across Thwaite Common to a footbridge and up to the village of Erpingham (home of Sir Thomas Erpingham, one of Henry V's archers in the Battle of Agincourt). We turned right, and walked along 'The Street' (with its mixture of old houses and more modern infill) for half a mile or so. At the Spread Eagle Inn (which appears to be for sale) we turned left down a more minor road which twisted its way downhill past attractive fields to the village school and the rectory, both right at the end of the village. Presumably the church half or mile or so away to the east is Erpingham Church, once again out of the village itself.
We crossed the minor road leading to the Church (to our left) and Grange Farm (to our right) then followed first a footpath and then a track across more attractive undulating countriside. It was here that we saw the fox, and the owl on our return journey. After a short stretch along a road, past Ash Hill Farm, we took another track that brought us to open land, complete with a spring, and a pretty little footbridge over the River Bure.
From here we were soon at the (empty) 'Fisherman's Carpark', at the north end of the Lake at Blickling Hall. We followed the route of the Weavers' Way on a track across the estate and emerged by the main car park. We had a cup of tea at the National Trust Cafe, then followed the lakeside path back to the north end of the lake and then retraced our steps via Erpingham and Thwaite to Aldborough.
We’d visited Blicking Hall itself with Helen and Tom on 14th March (we’d also visited many years earlier, when Michael and Helen were small). It was a relatively mild and sunny day and we enjoyed walking around the garden before the hall opened, visiting the ‘Sitooterie’ (somewhere to ‘Sit oot’), the Doric Temple and The Dell. There were snowdrops, hellebores and crocuses in flower and it will obviously be very pretty with daffodils and bluebells later in the spring.
Blicking Hall is a delightful Jacobean building, built on the site of an older hall which had been the home of the Boleyn family (Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII, may or may not have been born here and on the anniversary of her death she is said to haunt Blicking). The current 17th Century building was built for Sir Henry Hobart, and the ‘Hobart Bull’ (from the family crest) appears in wood, plaster and stone around the house. In the ‘upstairs’ part of the house, I particularly enjoyed the Great Hall, with stained glass lent to the Church of St Mary at Erpingham between 1935 and 1995, and the Long Gallery (built to allow indoor exercise, now a very attractive library).

Following leg of path